My philosophy for cooking used to be pretty simple – drown it in oil and it’ll taste fantastic. Got a big salad? Smother it in olive oil and vinegar. Got some veggies or (god forbid) some chicken to cook? Throw a whole bunch of oil in the pan and crisp it up. Well, those days are long gone, and if you’re interested in either losing weight, living a long healthy life, or both, they should be for you too.
The more I learn about plant-based nutrition, the more convinced I am that despite the fact that I love it, oil is a processed food and really should be avoided, and I’ve been convinced for a while that we should avoid added salt and sugar as well. Completely omitting these three things from a diet is pretty tough, and it may seem like it would be impossible to cook anything delicious without them. I’ve been looking around for as many oil-free or low-oil, salt-free, and sugar-free cookbooks as I cain, and there really aren’t very many of them. The recipes in Dr. Fuhrman’s books fit the bill, but every recipe I’ve tried out of his book comes out a little bland (although I use his platform for making soups all the time). Rip Esselstyn’s “Engine 2 Diet” recipes are pretty solid, but he’s not a trained chef and there’s nothing really “gourmet” about them. I’ve heard the recipes in his father’s book, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease,” are good, but I still haven’t picked it up. I did pick up Chef AJ’s “Unprocessed” the other day though and let’s just say I won’t need to look for any more cookbooks for a while.
I’ve been following Chef AJ’s youtube videos for a few months now and had tried some of the recipes she demonstrates, and I found they were astoundingly simple and delicious. I recently had a chance to take a cooking class from her, but I’ll leave that story for a different blog post – needless to say, she’s awesome, and so is this new book.
AJ begins “Unprocessed” with a brief but inspiring recounting of her life story and how she became so passionate about plant-based oil-free cooking, along with a couple chapters of psychological motivation for those of you who are teetering on the edge of being able to fully commit to this eating style. But what I was really interested in were the recipes. And let me tell ya, they’re super easy and unbelievably delicious. She’s got everything in there from decadent tasting desserts that are shockingly healthy, smoothies and juices (the apple pie smoothie is ridiculous), hearty entrees, sides, salads, and soups. I guarantee you, if you made some of these recipes, particularly the lasagna, for someone and then told them there was no oil or salt in it, they wouldn’t believe you.
The complaints I’ve had about some of the plant-based cookbooks I’ve previously bought and tried out are really two-fold: the recipes are too complicated for me to make any of them over and over again, and there’s all kinds of weird ingredients I have to purchase to even be able to make one particular dish, and then I won’t have to use that weird ingredient for anything else. Yes, some of the recipes in AJ’s book call for some items you probably don’t have in your pantry, but once you buy them I guarantee they’ll get a lot of use, and despite the fact that these recipes could impress any gourmet palate, they really are astoundingly simple. If you know what’s good for you, even if you’re not 100% convinced this eating style is the way to go, pick up this book NOW. You’ll find tons of recipes that you’ll want to make over and over and over. I’m going to literally go through and make every single one of the recipes in this book and let you know how they are, but until then, you should try some of them out yourself.
Also, check out Chef AJ’s youtube series, “The Chef and the Dietician.” Most of the recipes she makes in the videos are also in the book.